IDEALS OF LIFE III
romanticism and a natural classicism in a nation, as in an
individual. Taoism is the romantic school of Chinese thought,
as Confucianism is the classic school. Actually, Taoism is
romantic throughout. Firstly, it stands for the return to nature
and the romantic escape from the world, and revolts against
the artificiality and responsibilities of Confucian culture.
Secondly, it stands for the rural ideal of life, art and literature,
and the worship of primitive simplicity. And thirdly, it stands
for the world of fancy and wonder, coupled with a childishly
The Chinese have been adjudged a matter-of-fact people.
Yet there is a romantic side to their character which is even
deeper, and which shows itself in their intense individuality, in
their love of freedom and their happy-go-lucky view of life,
which so often completely mystifies the foreign observers. For
myself, I think the Chinese people are immeasurably greater
for it. In every Chinese there is a hidden vagabond, with his
love of vagabondage. Life under the Confucian code of
decorum would be unbearable without this emotional relief.
For Taoism is the playing mood of the Chinese people, as
Confucianism is their working mood. That accounts for
the fact that every Chinese is a Confiicianist when he is
successful and a Taoist when he is a failure. The naturalism
of Taoism is the balm that soothes the wounded Chinese
It is interesting to note how Taoism is more the creation of
the Chinese people even than Confucianism and to see how the
naturalistic philosophy of Laotse became allied, through the
working of the folk-mind, with the Chinese interpretation of
the world of spirits. Laotse himself had nothing to do with the
pill of immortality or with Taoistic magic. His was a philo-
sophy of laissez faire in government and naturalism in ethics.
For he believed in a "government which does nothing" as
the ideal government. What man needed was to be let alone
in his state of primitive freedom. Laotse regarded civilization 35
the beginning of man's degeneration, and considered the sages
of the Confucian type as the worst corrupters of the people,
as Nietzsche regarded Socrates as the first corrupter of Europe.
With his mordant wit, he said, "Sages no dead, robbers ao